A Life Interrupted in Cancun

Brazilian and Caribbean music enthusiasts in LA devastated over death of Zabumba owner Monica Burgos Beresford-Redman

By Elisa M. Medina
Published on LatinoLA: April 14, 2010

A Life Interrupted in Cancun

Last Thursday night, I noticed several missed calls on my cell phone from Nalva, the lead chef at Zabumba in West Los Angeles. I currently live in Miami, and it was already nearly midnight on the east coast. I thought I'd get some sleep and call her in the morning. As I was driving around, running errands the next day, I listened to the message she left me the night before. It was in Portuguese of course. It was something about Monica. I called Nalva back immediately. The bad news was that Monica Burgos Beresford-Redman, the vibrant, nearly 6 feet tall amazon diva from Rio de Janeiro Brasil, and long time owner of Zabumba night club, a cultural institution on the westside had left us. She was gone, murdered possibly by her husband Bruce, a former producer of the hit reality show Survivor. Of course, the first thing I said to Nalva was "Come on are you sure...are you serious?" But although this news was coming out of LA, the sad thing is that this was no tv show, this was indeed reality. Nalva said "Go turn on the news ... go get online." I did just that and the news was all over the net.

Monica who had been married for approximately eight years, had gone down to Cancun to celebrate her 42nd birthday with her husband Bruce and her two children, Camila 5 and Alec 3. According to reports, Monica and her husband were dealing with some relationship problems. Her husband had been having major issues with respect and honesty. He had been cheating. Part of why they had planned a getaway to Mexico was to work on resolving such issues. The couple was seen arguing by hotel guests on Monday, and later there were complaints about loud arguments coming from the couple's room. When the noise was brought to their attention hotel personnel were told by the couple that the fight had been over their children. Her husband Bruce later claimed that Monica had left the hotel that same day to go shopping but never returned. He flew back home to LA with his kids, then returned to Cancun later in the week to file a missing person's report. This past Thursday, April 8th, Monica was found in the sewer of the posh Moon Palace Hotel in Cancun where the family had stayed. There were scratches all over her neck, signs that she had been strangled. She was also hit with a blunt blow to the temple.

Her husband was taken into custody shortly after the discovery of the body. He had scratches on his arms and face, and in addition to the fighting and arguing witnessed by some hotel guests, some of his stories to Mexican police were inconsistent. He was released from police custody last Friday, April 9th, due to a current lack of evidence, but he remains a suspect as Mexican crime scene investigators complete forensic testing. He cannot leave Mexico at this time and has hired high-profile Mexican attorney Eduardo Amerena to represent him. It is being reported that his arrest is imminent.

Monica's family and friends are actively seeking justice for Monica and for her children who were recently awarded to the parents of her husband Bruce, instead of her sister Carla who also petitioned for them. They want Monica's parents to be granted permanent custody of Camila and Alec and are also fighting to get her body returned to the United States so that they may conduct an independent autopsy. They have recently hired attorney Alison Triessi.

Meanwhile, patrons friends and family gathered at Zabumba night club on Venice last Sunday night for a candlelight vigil. Sunday nights, for over ten years, now has been the Cuban salsa night at Zabumba - the only place in LA where the beautiful Cuban music and dance truly comes to life. Since 1994, when a very young under 30, Monica, who rode a motorcycle purchased Zabumba, it has been the place to be for Brasilian soccer when it's World Cup time with TV cameras parked outside trying to get a glimpse of soccer madness in and around the club as seemingly every Brasilian in LA was in the house, including Romario and even Pele on a few occasions. It's been the place to be every February when it's carnival in Brasil. Numerous flat screen TVs in Zabumba ablaze with all the glory via TV Globo from the Sambadrome in Rio... everyone waiting and watching to see what school would take the samba crown this year. Local Brasilian musicians and dancers could always shine at Zabumba, while feeling at home. The crowd, much like the owner, has always been a non-pretentious, mix of real people...ex-patriot Brasilians, locals from the neighborhood, samba, Cuban salsa and reggae enthusiasts, students and artist types from LA.

I happened to call a dear friend in Rio de Janeiro today who recently suffered another untimely loss to LA's Brasilian community. I spoke with Jefferson Azevedo, the uncle of Marco Jaro, a well-known Jiu Jitsu master who was recently killed in Rio de Janeiro while visiting family just last Christmas. Remembering Monica, he had these kind words regarding a life interrupted: "Monica was one of those people who came to the United States and worked very hard to make something. She gave a lot of Brasilian people when they first came here work at Zabumba. She was always there tending bar, in good times and even when things were slow. She never gave up. She loved that place."

About Elisa M. Medina:
Elisa M. Medina is a writer, teacher, diet and clothing consultant now living in Florida
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